Singer, songwriter, music producer
From a family of greats, vocalist, songwriter, and producer BeBe Winans has played a key role in the music industry. As a first-rate singer, he has performed alone and with groups. He is listed in the credits of over fifty albums, including those with his renowned brothers, the Winans, and his younger sister, CeCe. His talents as a songwriter land him in the credits of artists such as Gladys Knight, Yolanda Adams, Brandy, Bobby Brown, Eternal, Chante Moore, Dave Koz, Nancy Wilson, and Stephanie Mills. Not limited to producing gospel music or associated projects, Winans has become a celebrated radio show host and an actor in major films.
BeBe Winans' father, David Winans Sr., was a minister, gospel choir member, and a barber. Winans' mother, Delores Ransom, was a quiet and easygoing medical transcriptionist. As members of the Lemon Gospel Chorus, founded by Louise Lemon, David Winans, the saxophone player, and Ransom, the piano player, had an instant friendship while traveling locally and nationally.
Ransom had played for small storefront churches since she was a girl. As the grandson of a Church of God in Christ pastor, David Winans had always been exposed to music. The Lemon Gospel Chorus was an ideal match for both of them. The choir rehearsals, captivating music, and public performances contributed to their growing relationship. Their 1953 marriage produced ten children: David II, Ronald, Carvin, Marvin, Michael, Daniel, Benjamin (BeBe), Priscilla (CeCe), Angelique, and Debbie.
David Winans was a barber by trade, but it was not uncommon for him to assume various working roles to insure food and shelter for his family. In the loving and nurturing home, the parents had strict rules that forbade dancing, parties, and movie going. Not having the option of listening to secular music, the family grew up listening to gospel greats such as Andrae Crouch and the Hawkins family.
Most of the rules left little time for outside entertainment, so the Winans household was always filled with singing and music. Routine tasks such as cooking, eating, or grooming were not complete without singing. Singing became a constant source of interaction amongst the siblings, and when financial times were tough singing was the sole source of entertainment.
The elder brothers seemed to have special gifts for improvising and harmonizing. Each child was unique and had his or her own style and distinctive sound. These voices often led songs at church or family gatherings. Their harmonies and powerful lyrics combined to make them a highly popular teenage quartet known in the early and mid-1970s as the Testimonials.
As a youngster, BeBe watched his five older brothers perform and years later, he got a chance to perform as background in the group known as the Winans. The Winans were the five oldest brothers who had a heavy rhythm and blues style, yet they maintained a strong gospel presence. BeBe learned at any early age the importance of family and the healing power of music.
The Bright Lights
Early in 1980, BeBe and his sister CeCe received an opportunity to sing as a member of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's PTL Club Singers. The PTL Club, for Praise the Lord or People that Love aired daily and weekly. In between the talk show format and the easygoing preaching style of Jim Bakker, the PTL singers would appear on cue with various gospel renditions.
The most popular of the gospel melodies was performed by BeBe and CeCe. Tammy Faye asked them to sing a duet based on the song, "Up Where We Belong," popularized by Joe Cocker. Tammy Faye suggested changing the lyrics from "love lifts us up where we belong" to "Lord lift us up where we belong." The song was extremely popular and they were often asked to sing it. "Lord Lift Us Up" became a wonderful stepping stone for Winans. These early televised appearances provided the motivation and confidence he needed to appear onstage locally and abroad. PTL eventually released an album featuring BeBe and CeCe, and they soon had record deals with Sparrow and Capital Records.
As a teenager on PTL, BeBe had never meant to be part of a recording pair with his sister, but their national exposure as a team led to repeated requests across the world for the two of them. By most accounts, they were indeed breaking racial boundaries. Very rarely had black singers been invited to appear in all white evangelical Christian churches.
BeBe released a debut album with his sister in 1987 entitled BeBe and CeCe Winans. A departure from the heavily gospel sound, this album soared on the rhythm and blues charts and the gospel charts. This first album earned three Grammy nominations and a gospel award for excellence. Together with his sister, Winans produced five albums, all of which helped them to reach platinum heights and numerous Grammy awards and nominations.
Winans had long imagined participating in solo projects. For years he had worked as a duet act with his sister, and he had worked as a background on the releases for his older brothers. In 1997, the time finally came for him to release his first solo album. The release of the self-titled album did very well on the gospel charts and the secular charts. Winans followed it with 2000's Love & Freedom, the concert album Live and Up Close in 2002, the holiday collection My Christmas Prayer in 2003, and Dream in 2005. Winans' exceptional voice allowed him the flexibility to honor his gospel root foundation, and it gave him opportunities to cross boundaries and formats.
With four Grammy awards, ten Dove awards, six Stellar awards, two NAACP awards and a Soul Train Award, Winans changed directions: he formed his own company, the Movement Group, which includes TMG Records as well as management and publishing divisions. His 2005 release Dream was produced under TMG Records.
In 2004, Winans began hosting a weekly syndicated radio show, The BeBe Winans Radio Show. He combined his knowledge of the gospel industry with unique content. The star-studded two-hour radio program is complete with exclusive interviews, gospel hits, contests, and superstar guest hosts each week. By 2006 the radio show was heard in fifty-seven of the top sixty markets.
Winans added the role of actor to his resume, making his feature film debut in Jonathan Demme's The Manchurian Candidate. He also starred on Broadway in the shows Civil War and Don't Get God Started and the national tour of What's on the Hearts of Men.
While Winans was expected to create a few more albums, his goal was to devote more time to acting and running his company, The Movement Group. Unbothered by criticism, he enjoys much success as a vocalist, songwriter, producer, talk show host, and actor, all while still loving his gospel music.
- Born in Detroit, Michigan on September 17
- Appears with sister on PTL Club as PTL singer
- Records "Lord Lift Us Up" for PTL
- Records first album BeBe and CeCe with sister CeCe
- Takes home first Grammy
- Records first solo album BeBe Winans
- Opens company Movement Group
- Hosts weekly syndicated radio show, The BeBe Winans Radio Show
- Records fifth solo album
Evans Price, Deborah. "Winans Woos Listeners in Many Formats." Billboard 117 (February 2005): 29.
Garrison, Greg. "Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker Propelled This Popular Duet." Religion News Service, Birmingham Alabama News, 15 June 2005.
Waldron, Clarence. "BeBe and CeCe Winans Talk about Their Gospel Sound and Famous Family." Jet 25 (January 1993): 24-28.